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Research topics for undergraduates?

July 2014
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Looking at the recent statistics for this site, I noticed the surge in interest on research topics for undergraduates. What they found were posts I made over the last few years that included lists of titles of researches being undertaken by our undergraduate students at UP Diliman Civil Engineering. In addition, there are also a lot of articles I posted about various topics on transport and traffic that could be used as basis for developing or identifying research topics for their undergraduate research work. There are a lot of problems or issues or challenges that the Philippines needs to solve. Thus, there should be a number of topics that students can choose from depending on their interest as well as perhaps the capacities or capabilities of their respective advisers to guide them in the implementation of their researches. Among the more “in demand” topics are those relating to road safety, public transport, traffic congestion, walking, cycling and even parking. Topics for undergraduate research should be something that could be implemented over a semester or two including the required review of literature, data collection (i.e., field surveys as well as secondary data collection from various sources) and the analysis of such data. Some topics can be more challenging than others and those requiring specific software (e.g., commercial rather than open-source) should not be encouraged if a school doesn’t have the resources. For the “techies,” topics involving development of software tools or apps may be encouraged as long as the objectives and data requirements are well defined and students don’t end up with useless products.

The National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) receives a lot of inquiries every year from students of various universities about research topics on transportation. Most of these are emails and letters without the endorsement of their advisers or teachers. And so we advise them to get the necessary endorsements first before they could do their researches at the Center. This gives the request a bit of a formality though we can only usually extend limited assistance as the Center’s resources are also limited. We have to state, however, that we are not in the business of advising or guiding students from other universities or colleges. That is the responsibility of your faculty whose job is to guide your students. The Center can provide whatever it has in terms of data or information but the specific data or information should first be identified by the students and their advisers by doing research on the topics of interest.

I have not yet posted on research topics for Academic Year 2014-2015 as UP has moved its academic calendar from June to August starting this year. At this time of year, we usually already have a list of topics for our students to choose from. These are topics that faculty have provided and which they could confidently guide students who would be under them (i.e., those who selected the topics they listed). It is highly likely that I would be selecting topics from some of the articles I have posted here and my co-faculty would be listing topics that address current issues or challenges in transport. Until perhaps the middle to last part of August when we would already know how many students will be assigned to our Transportation Engineering Group could we come up with a long list. By early September, our students would have selected their topics to embark on their undergraduate research work.


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